Since the physical body is constantly changing—with a complete change of molecular makeup every eight years—the fact we have memory, that we remember events and people from ten years ago or longer, underscores the reality that the living entity or “self” is constant and un-changing. That’s the intriguing crux of a lecture by Jagad Guru Siddhaswarupananda.
A world-renowned yoga spiritual master, Jagad Guru asked a captivated audience in Honolulu, Hawaii, “What is memory? It’s like a thought that you had before, or a picture of something you had before. So you’re looking at it, right? If a person, for example, let’s say a man is 45 years old and he had a, you know, a raging love affair when he was 20. And then he didn’t see that woman again for 10 years or whatever, 20 years. And all of a sudden one day he saw something that brought back to his memory that woman – whether it was a picture of her, or whatever, okay. It brought it back to his mind. What does he experience? He experiences, “Ohhh, I remember… I remember her, I remember all the things about that relationship we had.” In other words when he sees her he experiences, ’I’ve seen her before’ When he sees her in his mind, when he remembers her in his memory, then he feels, ‘This is not a stranger to me.’
“The self is a constant principle. You were there through all these changes of your body and your mind. See, the mind and the body are constantly changing. The body’s… the atomic particles making up the body are changing, your philosophy’s changing, your ideas are always changing, but you are in the center. You are the I, the self, and you are aware of all these changes. Just like you can sometimes watch the mind move. You can watch it go by. Similarly you can watch your body go by. Your body gets older. Look in the mirror, you know. It starts changing, sagging. That’s why I say look at a photo album, so-called, you know, family album of your so-called self and you’ll notice this. The changes are constant, but there is a constant principle, a non-changing principle and that’s you, the self.”
“So since the body’s always changing… like Carl Sagan is saying, for example, that he is the water molecules, and these kind of molecules. But you see, all these molecules have gone. If he is the water, and the water has gone everywhere, then how come he’s not gone? I don’t know what his answer would be. But anyone would have a very difficult time proving it or any kind of evidence to back up this concept that the self is the body or the body is the self, that you are your body, that you are just chemicals in essence. There’s no foundation for this. There’s no support or evidence whatsoever. It’s just a feeling, but when you put it up against reality, the facts, it doesn’t fit. So you have to discard that feeling, that false identification with your body. You have to give that up and start looking somewhere else. What am I if I’m not chemicals. What am I? What is my essence if I’m not just a chemical machine?”
Jagad Guru concluded, “This is a long subject and we can go into all these things more in-depth. But our whole series on the science of identity, on the question of identity, is not just a philosophical one. We should remember that it’s a personal one and it’s a very real question that has to do with our real life, our attitude towards death, our attitude towards our existence, our purpose in life, our meaning of life. It also has to do with very real social questions. There’s very real social ramifications connected with how we identify ourselves.”